The macro impact of micro grants
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In the world of philanthropy, multi-million-dollar grants often grab the
headlines. But smaller investments can also make a big difference.
recent years, micro-giving in particular has grown across a variety of sectors.
By taking advantage of platforms like Donors Choose, Kickstarter, Kiva and
Indiegogo that have enabled the rise of crowd-funding and the $5 donor, small
investments are empowering people who might not otherwise have access to funds,
thus enabling grassroots ideas and innovation to spread.
At ROI, we have
developed a micro grants program that puts a twist on this growing
Our community members now have the opportunity to apply for up to
$1,000 for various grants, which cover costs ranging from professional
development classes, registration fees to attend conferences, and even money to
sponsor an event with Jewish or Israeli content.
The process is simple:
ROI Community members apply online, applications are approved within days and
funding is sent via Paypal.
Adding micro grants to our suite of offerings
has enabled us to invest more – and more deeply – in our community members. An
independent study we commissioned found that 90 percent of those who received
micro grants last year expect the small investment will make a significant
contribution to the success of their venture, and 95% said that the grant
provided them “a sense of empowerment.”
When Heather Wilk, for example,
decided to expand Straight But Not Narrow – a rapidly growing LGBT equality
organization she founded in Los Angeles – she used her micro grant to develop
the group’s network in England. She flew to London for a series of meetings and
networking events, which have already turned into new campaigns and
Renato Huarte, a teacher in Mexico City, meanwhile, used his
micro grant to attend Limmud UK, which helped him launch Mexico’s first ever
Limmud conference – an experience he described as a “dream come
THE SUCCESS of our micro-grants initiative has pushed us to think
deeply about the potential for this model to be adapted and adopted by
organizations across the Jewish world.
While not intended to replace, but
rather to complement, larger-scale models of investment, there are a number of
benefits to including micro grants in our collective portfolio of initiatives to
support the development of the next generation of Jewish leaders.
Micro grants enable us to invest in people.
Traditional forms of
grant-making often provide wholesale support for programs and organizations, but
not necessarily for the continued development of the people entrusted to run
them today and in the future. Micro grants can provide an antidote.
making available small amounts of hasslefree money on a rolling application
basis, we can help to professionalize and empower young adults with the tools
and skills they need to take the reins of leadership – whether of an existing
organization or one they are building. Moreover, we can also ignite the spark
that comes from hearing their first “yes” to a grant request.
One of our
micro grants, for example, Go Professional!, invests in professional
development, covering costs ranging from media training and fundraising
consulting to graphic design and time-management classes. The model also
provides the flexibility to offer different types of support that enables young
leaders to choose the development form that most speaks to their
2. Micro grants provide a scalable low-risk model with a high
potential for payoff.
As is the case with any investment, not all grant
recipients will create transformative projects that will move our community
Micro grants, however, significantly lower the risk factor of
betting that some can, and will.
With low overhead and low administrative
costs – for both the grantee and grantor – we can give more young people more
opportunities to explore new ideas, initiatives, skills and experiences, without
much risk for either side.
3. Micro grants enable grantors to be a part
of the learning process.
By investing in a wide range of people, we get
exposure to new and creative initiatives and, in doing so, learn about the ideas
that are out there.
In turn, we facilitate collaborations and, more
significantly, are better positioned to help initiatives we believe in mature
into full-fledged projects.
We are now building on the success of our
pilot by expanding the micro grant model within ROI and experimenting with it
more broadly across the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network.
Participants in Schusterman’s REALITY program, as well as its South African
Young Jewish Innovators Gathering, for example, can apply for small grants to
cover the cost of anything from a public-speaking class to organizing a
community service project.
To be sure, micro grants cannot exist in a
Rather, they ought to be considered a powerful tool in the suite
of approaches required to empower the next generation of Jewish leaders to gain
the skills, resources and networks they need.
Importantly, they do not
require a huge budget, as even a small amount set aside for micro giving can
make a big difference.
Ensuring a vibrant Jewish future requires an
investment in the people who form our leadership base today and in the
In this regard, micro grants have the potential to make a macro
No’a Gorlin is the Director of Strategy and Leadership
Development for ROI Community.